Published: January 23, 2021 6:42 pm ET
If asked what's the common thread between O'Brien Award finalists Lawless Shadow, Tattoo Artist and Century Farroh, the most likely answer would be their trainer Dr. Ian Moore. While true, it's just as notable that all three male pacers made their first pari-mutuel starts as two-year-olds in the Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots program.
"I never thought about it until awhile ago, but they said all three of my finalists started their careers in the Grassroots, so I guess that means theres nothing wrong with that, is there?" Moore told Trot Insider with a laugh when asked about his 2020 O'Brien Awards finalists. It's a system of development that clearly worked and continues to work for the veteran horseman.
"I tend to do that a lot. I guess that probably comes from my time I spent where I grew up in the East Coast. Back then I used to train all the babies down there in the winter, including Shadow Play, and they all started their careers in the non-winners of one going for $800 or $900...and they all went on to be decent horses.
"Sometimes I think you put them in the Golds, and theres evidence this year, especially in the fillies. Like Bet On Becky, whatd she go? 1:50-and-something in the first start in the Gold?...Id rather wait a little bit, so I like the Grassroots for that."
There's a pretty good chance Moore will stick to what works going forward as he's Coming off a career-best training season with $2.3 million earned by his starters during a shortened stakes season where some of his stable stars missed out on some solid racing opportunities.
Obviously Im very, very pleased. This year was the best year weve had as a stable, and [we] only averaged about 20 horses most of the time. We only had the five months, which was also pretty good since we needed to make the amount of money out of the usual six we race in. May was gone, and a lot of big stakes races were cancelled as well.
"I had a great staff last summer, and they all did a fantastic job for me. You need good management and good help to have success, and I think all of that worked last year.
Moore admitted that managing his stable, comprised of horses with stakes engagements in multiple states and provinces, was no simple task and required solid connections in addition to stellar staff.
"It was difficult. And as a result, we only really sent three horses [stateside] -- one of them was only down there a short period of time, that was Tattoo Artist at the end of the year. Century Farroh was back and forth a lot initially, and then towards the end of the year he stayed a little bit longer. And Lady Arthur was back and forth to Ohio, then did well there initially and then when I left her there things went a little wrong for her. I have a lot of friends in the business throughout North America, and the world I guess, and at times like this it's always good to have friends -- people that you know and know very well, and people you can trust with horses that you send them and do what you ask them."
The 2015 O'Brien Award of Horsemanship winner, Moore picked up his first Breeders Crown championship as a trainer in 2020 courtesy Century Farroh. The four-year-old son of Mach Three - Beachy Girl is looking for his second consecutive OBrien trophy after being voted Canadas Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt of the Year in 2019 for Moore and owner Ratchford Stable NS of North Sydney, N.S.
"It was the first for us as a stable, and it was quite a thrill to win that even though I wasnt there to share in it at all," said Moore. "It will be a lasting memory for sure."
After the Breeders Crown, Century Farroh was scratched from the Potomac Pace at Rosecroft and then finished his season with an off-the-board finish in the TVG Final.
"He got whats commonly called limestone poisoning and I had never heard of it before. And I guess it is quite a common entity in the Midwest, in places like Indiana, where theres more calcium in the limestone that they use on track surfaces down there. And [in] a lot of horses it causes infection similar to cellulitis, and it swells up and breaks out at the hairlines in the heel areas in particular."
With the infection cleared up and no long-term repercussions, Century Farroh is enjoying a well-deserved rest after spending most of the season battling the sport's top free-for-allers on the Grand Circuit. Competing as a four-year-old, the son of Mach Three scored 12 top-three finishes in 16 starts and banked more than $637,000.
"He did a lot of trucking, because I was bringing him back and forth a lot. He was pretty ribby at the end when we finally got to Florida around the first of December. He put some weight on and he looks fantastic. Were probably not going to start Century Farroh back until the end of January...going to give him a whole two months off."
Stablemate Tattoo Artist will also enjoy a two-month break after a superb sophomore season that garnered him an O'Brien Award nomination. The son of Hes Watching - Stylish Artist won eight of 17 starts and more than $666,000 this past season with victories in five Ontario Sires Stakes events, and a division of the Simcoe Stakes. One of his biggest efforts was a runner-up finish in the $1 million North America Cup for Florida-based owners Frank Cannon and Let It Ride Stables Inc.
"The second-place finish in the North America Cup was pretty good as any," said Moore in selecting a highlight of Tattoo Artist's season. "I mean he won several Golds there, and they were all good. Its hard to pick one highlight with him, but I guess if I had to, the fact he was second in the N.A. Cup...wed been there many times before. I think the best wed ever achieved in the final was a fifth with State Treasurer, if I remember correctly. So that was a good thrill to be in there. We didnt expect to beat Tall Dark Stranger, but we were happy to be runner-up."
Moore could sweep the male pacing categories at the 2020 O'Brien Awards thanks to the exploits of two-year-old Lawless Shadow. The son of Shadow Play - Ladycino hit the board in eight of nine races, including four wins in his rookie campaign and topped $307,000 in purse earnings for Moore, Cannon and co-owners R G McGroup Ltd. of Bathurst, N.B. and NHLer Hall of Famer Serge Savard.
"Lawless Shadow was a really nice two-year-old. He trained well in the spring and had some problems with making breaks, but he turned out to be a super horse for us. He started in the Grassroots, and like Tattoo Artist and Century Farroh, and when you win a Gold at some point after that, thats always a big thrill."
No matter who gets the nod in the two-year-old pacing colt category -- Bulldog Hanover or Lawless Shadow, Moore will consider it a win for him as both colts are sired by his former stable star Shadow Play. Regardless of the voting, Moore is looking forward to watching the virtual gala from his Florida base of operations.
"Im happy. Its good just to get the recognition of being a finalist. And Im not sure how its going to go, like Bulldog Hanover [did really well] at the end of the year for Jack Darling...Century Farroh spent most of his time in the U.S. this year, so I dont know whats going to happen there. Well see what happens.
"Well be watching on the computer like everybody else I guess, but its such a shame because its such a well-done event," Moore continued. Excellent organization, and everybody puts on a good show. Its quite impressive. It is a shame that its going to be online but thats just the way it is and I hope everybody stays safe and watches it.
"If they do an online production as well as they did the actual production itll be just fine. Im looking forward to it."
The 2020 Virtual OBrien Awards Gala takes place on Sunday, January 31, 2021 and will be available for viewing on standardbredcanada.ca from 7:00 8:30 p.m. (EST).
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